Francisco Vásquez de Coronado

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Francisco Vásquez de Coronado (* 1510 in Salamanca , † August 22, 1554 in Mexico City ) was a Spanish conquistador .

Coronado's Way North
Illustration based on a history painting by Frederic Remington , created in 1898, destroyed in 1908


Francisco Vásquez de Coronado comes from a noble family from Salamanca. Since he was not the firstborn, he was not given the right of inheritance. Antonio de Mendoza , later viceroy of New Spain , was one of his friends , and so he emigrated to Mexico City in 1535. In 1539 he married Beatriz de Estrada there and in the same year he was appointed governor of New Galicia by Antonio de Mendoza .

Expedition through North America

1540: The conquest of the pueblos

Expedition from Vásquez de Coronado

In 1539 Antonio de Mendoza sent Vásquez de Coronado to search for the seven golden cities of Cibola . With approx. 350 Spaniards, 300 Indians and 1000 slaves as well as approx. 1500 animals, Coronado set off. In April 1540 he left Mexico. With two ships, some members of the expedition sailed the Gulf of California and so Hernando de Alarcón discovered the mouth of the Colorado River on August 26, 1540 .

In August Coronado's squad reached the San Pedro . In 1540 he divided his army. The train with supplies, cattle and cannons was just too slow. With less than 100 men, he rode ahead. For many days the men rode through uninhabited areas where they could find no food and hardly any water. Finally they reached Hawiku , half starved , one of the cities rumored to be very rich. But this city was a disappointment because it was neither big nor rich. In addition, several hundred Zuñi warriors prevented them from entering. Hunger left the Spanish with no choice but to conquer this place. But before they read aloud the Indians the requerimiento , was declared in the Spanish that their settlement from now on to the Empire Emperor Charles V . belong so that they should adopt the Christian faith and that they should keep peace with the Spanish. The Indian interpreters could not be heard in the war cries of the Zuñis. Nevertheless, the proclamation was read to the end. The Zuñis shot a couple of arrows at the Spaniards and hit a priest's robe. Thereupon the conquistadors stormed against the numerical superiority and forced them to retreat. Although the defenders quickly withdrew to their town, some Indians were killed. They threw stones from their flat roofs and shot arrows at the attackers. Since Coronado wore gold-plated armor, he was easy to spot in the crowd. As a result, he was hit several times, but his officers García López de Cárdenas and Hernando de Alvarado saved his life. After an officer discovered a ladder, the attackers entered the city via a roof and occupied it while the residents fled. The Spaniards had only a few wounded and no dead to mourn. They ransacked the place and took the supplies. After they released their prisoners, the Indians came back with gifts and asked for peace.

Coronado used the city as a base and conquered almost all of what is now the southwestern United States . The small group split more often, and so García López de Cárdenas reached the Grand Canyon and Hernando de Alvarado reached the Rio Grande Valley. A Zuñidorf was actually called a Cibola , but there was no riches here either.

Only now did the train arrive with the supplies and the rest of the soldiers. The land was conquered, but they hadn't found any gold .

1541–42: Quivira and the return

But now they heard about the gold country Quivira . Since the men did not want to return to Mexico empty-handed, they followed an Indian named El Turco , who supposedly knew the way to Quivira. But the aim of this Indian was to lead the Spaniards into the endless expanses of the prairie and starve and thirst there.

On April 23, 1541, all the Spaniards and their Indian guide moved north-east in search of Quivira, the land of gold. They followed the man for several weeks, covering the route Arizona - New Mexico - North Texas - Oklahoma - Kansas . The march was full of privation and they made very slow progress with the large entourage. After forty days, Coronado sent most of his troops back to Tiguex . He himself rode on with thirty men. When they reached Quivira, they found nothing but a few grass huts where nomadic Indians lived who hunted buffalo . They had never seen gold that the Spaniards showed them. After El Turco confessed to having misled the Spaniards, Coronado had him executed and then turned back. After wintering in Tiguex, Coronado arrived in Mexico City in the spring of 1542 with around 100 people . About 200 people came in the next few months.

Successes of the expedition

Vásquez de Coronado could not find the riches he hoped for in either Cibola or Quivira. Therefore he achieved nothing more than the victories over the Pueblo Indian tribes Zuñi and Hopi as well as the Tiwa . Most of the Indians resisted proselytizing. He was also the first European in the states of Utah and Kansas . Every territory he crossed he took possession of for the Spanish crown.

Follow the expedition

A few weeks after Vásquez de Coronado and his army moved north from New Galicia, the Mixtón War broke out there . The Indians use the absence of their governor and his army for an uprising.

Vásquez de Coronado lost a large part of his horses and cattle in a thunderstorm. The horses formed part of the later basis of the mustang herds . With them, the daily life of the Indians changed forever. Because only with the help of the horse could they follow the buffalo herds. Since Vásquez de Coronado did not find the wealth he wanted, he fell out of favor. Nevertheless, he was able to defend himself in court and kept the governorship until 1544. He died ten years later.


  • Peter O. Koch: Imaginary cities of gold: the Spanish quest for treasure in North America. McFarland & Co., Jefferson, NC 2009, ISBN 978-0-7864-4381-9 .
  • Herbert E. Bolton: Coronado, knight of pueblos and plains. University of New Mexico Press, 1949, reprinted 1990, ISBN 0-8263-0007-3 .
  • Hans-Otto Meissner : I didn't find any gold in Arizona. The adventures of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado. New edition. Klett, Stuttgart 1982, ISBN 3-12-920013-4 .
    Youth book with fictional dialogues; only Coronado biography in German

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Tony Horwitz: The true discoverers of the New World - from the Vikings to the Pilgrim Fathers. Pieper Verlag, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-492-25462-5 , p. 193.
  2. Heinz J. Stammel: Indianer, Legende und Demokratie von A bis Z. Orbis, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-572-00842-5 , p. 59.